Two Way Streets: Parking on St. Paul and Calvert

December 22, 2015

The Baltimore Department of Transportation is toying with the idea of converting St. Paul and Calvert streets to two-way traffic. These streets are components of a north-south corridor that bring northern Baltimore and Baltimore County residents directly into the heart of the city. Based on Baltimore Brew’s reporting the response at even exploring the notion has been negativeSee Baltimore Brew articles on DOT’s three meetings here, here, and here. . Frankly, I had no earthly idea so many in Baltimore City were clairvoyant, though I have no choice but to concede this is the case what with the adamant declarations that two-way conversion for these streets will simply never work.

On two-way complete streets

My understanding of the urban planning literature of late is that conversion to two-way complete streets supports business, improves safety, and makes for a generally more lively neighborhoodNot to mention that two-way streets may make for more efficient within-network travel.

Thoroughfares with high vehicle throughputs, on the other hand, tend to bifurcate communities. We don’t have to look any farther than Baltimore itself - Orleans provides direct access from downtown to Johns Hopkins but destroys any sense of a livable community along that dangerous corridor. I-83, a federal interstate that reaches from the northern suburbs into the downtown heart of Baltimore, forms a clear demarcation between Mt. Vernon/downtown and East Baltimore. Even the now upper middle class (read: yuppie) neighborhood of Canton would do well to slow Boston street and make it more pedestrian friendly - as it stands, you still have to get in a car to get to the Target or the restaurants on the waterfront. Despite thriving business it isn’t exactly a pedestrian friendly corridor.

Perhaps worth noting here that the defunct red-light camera program in Baltimore didn’t include any intersections on the St. Paul/Calvert corridor, and though I have no data to support it I’ve never once seen any speeding enforcement on either of these streets, nor Baltimore in general. Perhaps economic activity isn’t the goal on St. Paul and Calvert - that’s largely left to North Charles St. a block west in terms of businesses - but a gentle 2% downhill grade from the north all the way to downtown and lights timed just poorly enough to encourage hitting the gas instead of the brake makes for regular 40 mph speedersflying through a residential neighborhood.

A look at parking on St. Paul and Calvert

Nevertheless, I’m curious as to whether any of the public datasets from Open Baltimore can suggest a path forward. One aspect that city-dwellers are sure to complain of in light of potential street changes is parking. We can first take a look at the parking citation data I had dug into a while back. Only blocks with ten or more citations are shown. Presented below are the total parking citations on these blocks between January 1, 2014 and November 30, 2015. It’s probably no surprise that the areas near Johns Hopkins and University of Baltimore/Maryland Institute College of Art (part of a dense residential neighborhood) have particularly high citation counts.

Total ticket counts for St. Paul and Calvert from January 1, 2014 through November 30, 2015 are practically equivalent: 19,500 tickets on St. Paul and 20,184 on Calvert. 20,000 citations over about 600 days is about 33 citations a day for each of these approximately three mile stretches of street - or about 10 citations per mile per day. It could be that one parking cop is making his or her way up Calvert from downtown and then down St. Paul. Judging by the hourly totals presented below, it appears that enforcement on St. Paul falls behind Calvert by about an hour or two.

Total parking citations by hour, January 1, 2014 through November 30, 2015.

Parking is just one aspect of the multi-faceted question of converting one-way streets to two-way. It’s hard to read too much into these top-level data on citations without additional information, like how many actual parking spots are on each block, but the design would certainly have to consider what to do at each of these dense university spots. My hope is that the upcoming MTA bus route redesign will be integrated with these potential two-way conversions and will provide good alternatives to car dependency in Baltimore. Especially for college kids.

Two Way Streets: Parking on St. Paul and Calvert - December 22, 2015 - Justin Elszasz